"Can we make this a ritual?" my then-9-year-old niece asked me. We had just run under the waterfall at Moore's Cove in the western North Carolina mountains, where the water temperature-even in July-hovers around 50 degrees. Kaitlyn, her mother, her brothers, my golden retriever, and I had hiked to the falls and then dashed under one at a time, with the appropriate screams and gasps as the cold water pounded down on us.
"What do you mean, Kaitlyn?" I asked her.
"Well, could we come here every summer on this same weekend and run under the waterfall?"
At an early age, Kaitlyn has a grasp of the importance of rituals and memories. In the summers since, she and her family have made the trek on the last weekend in July to run under the waterfall. This past year we took pictures.
I'd already begun to build other rituals into my yearly calendar. Each fall I take a retreat to honor the resplendent turning of the leaves. During that long, cold spell each February, I journey with friends to the South Carolina coast for a week of rest and celebration. At Christmas-no matter where I am-I light a fire, heat up some spiced cider, and invite friends over for a reading of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever
. These times become touchstones of remembrance.
LAST FALL I TURNED 40. That seemed worthy of special celebration. I got in my car and drove back to all the places within reach that had been special in my life. I spent time with my parents in Pennsylvania, my sisters in Virginia and North Carolina; on up to Connecticut, where I was in seminary a long time ago; two days on the coast of Maine and a visit back to my college campus there; a swing through New York City and Washington, D.C.